January 2018 Club

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Laura is in the midst of a midlife crisis – she’s reeling after a bad divorce which has left her self-confidence at rock bottom. Securing a job she loves as a housekeeper to an elderly man in a large redbrick Victorian villa keeps her occupied, but she’s hardly thriving by winding up a little blue enamel clock once a day, while Anthony Peardew adds to his collection of lost things he finds in the streets and parks in the neighbourhood and which people bring to him.

When Anthony dies, he leaves Padua (the fitting name of the house) to Laura, on the condition that she spends time trying to reunite the lost things with their original owners. The task is overwhelming and Laura shies away from it for a good part of the story.

Laura takes a journey of self-discovery with the help of the gorgeous Sunshine, her neighbour with down’s syndrome who has the most charming turn of phrase and can see things as they are without all the delusions the rest of us use to justify our actions. The handsome gardener, Freddy, serves as a love interest but also boosts Laura’s self esteem.

Anthony lived a life of regret after losing his beloved Therese on their wedding day along with her communion medal. He’s a writer and interspersed with the story are vignettes which he has invented, imagining scenarios in which the owner has lost the item.

There’s also a second story running alongside the main plotline detailing 40 years of the loving relationship between Bomber and Eunice - a love which can never be reciprocated by him in a romantic way. Bomber’s ashes are left in a Huntley and Palmer biscuit tin on a train destined for Brighton, so being the main lost object of the novel, gets its own backstory.

A mystical element also creeps into the novel. Therese is very much still present in the house despite being dead for so many years and seems to be urging Laura in a particular direction. I interpreted this as Therese getting frustrated with Laura’s inability to get started on the task of returning the lost objects to their owners and to start listening to Sunshine who possesses some level of psychic ability in connection to the objects.

Colourway inspiration

With so much emphasis on the rose garden at Padua, I took my inspiration from this phrase:

“the roses in the garden below were in full bloom, undulating ruffles of scarlet, pink and creamy petals, and the surrounding borders frothed with fluttering peonies punctuated with sapphire lances of larkspur.”

Rose Promise – for the variegated colourway, I started with a creamy neutral and carefully left some areas of white to which I added scarlet, a red-pink and a bright pink, which were merged together to suggest the velvety sheen of a rose petal. I then added a bright stamen yellow and a deep larkspur blue.

English Rose – for the semi-solid colourway, I wanted to reflect the depth of colour of a pink rose. This required four layers of dye. The first was scarlet. The yarn was extracted from the pot and a second layer of red-pink added. The process was repeated and a third layer of scarlet, red-pink and dark red-plum was added. And for a fourth and final time, the yarn was taken out of the pot and a last layer of scarlet was added. In this way, I could build up the depth of colour I envisaged without the colour being too flat.